Bureau of Reclamation announced that Reclamation will use $4.6 million to partner with water managers to conduct comprehensive water studies. This funding will help complete four basin studies in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
“Reclamation is working to address widening imbalances between demand and supply in basins throughout the West," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Tanya Trujillo. "Working collaboratively with stakeholders within each respective basin, we can develop options that will achieve a sustainable water supply."
“These studies will help ensure reliable water supplies in communities affected by the impacts of drought,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Each of these programs will use the latest science and data available to develop strategies that meet current and future water demands.”
Three Basins were selected to conduct full Basin Studies. Basin Studies are collaborative studies, cost-shared with non-Federal partners, to evaluate water supply and demand and help ensure reliable water supplies by identifying strategies to address imbalances in water supply and demand.
An additional Basin was selected to receive funding to develop a plan of study. A plan of study helps a cost-share partner, such as a local water district define the outcomes and set the scope and focus for a potential future basin study. Reclamation will develop the plans of study with each cost-share partner.
- Great Salt Lake Basin Study, Upper Colorado River Basin: Federal funding $3,174,000; non-federal funding $3,320,000
- Walla Walla River Basin Study, Columbia-Pacific Northwest: Federal Funding $500,000; non-federal funding $500,000
- Big Wood River Basin Study, Columbia-Pacific Northwest: Federal Funding $494,000; nonfederal funding $494,000
- Dolores Water Conservancy Project Plan of Study, Upper Colorado River Basin: Federal Funding $100,000; non-federal funding $100,000
The Great Salt Lake Basin Study covers 36,000 square miles spanning four states, including Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada. The basin is home to 2.6 million people. Over 1.5 million acres of farmland are irrigated with water stored in more than 1,300 reservoirs. Currently, the Great Salt Lake Basin’s water level is in long-term decline, threatening billions of dollars in economic activity, a globally important ecosystem, local public health, air quality, and other critical values that the lake supports. In 2021, the Great Salt Lake Basin fell below its historical low elevation. This Basin Study will help water managers across all four states update and coordinate modeling efforts, engage a diverse set of stakeholders and public interests and identify mitigation and adaptation strategies to support sustainable management.
The Walla Walla Basin is a biologically, hydrologically, and jurisdictionally complex watershed that extends across the border of Washington and Oregon and encompasses an area of 1,760 square miles. Insufficient flows and high stream temperatures stress populations of several ESA-listed fish and reintroduced spring Chinook salmon. Ensuring adequate water for farms, fish and people is a challenge, particularly in the summer months when demand for water is the highest and streamflow is naturally at its lowest. Collectively, water demands regularly exceed the available supply. Municipal demands are projected to grow while climate change is causing increased temperatures and varying hydrological conditions, exacerbating existing imbalances. This Basin Study will allow Reclamation and the cost-share partners, along with other stakeholders, to develop and evaluate options for an integrated approach to the management of the basin's water supplies and aquatic resources.
The Big Wood River Basin Study includes the Big Wood River watershed as well as the Camas Creek watershed and the Little Wood River watershed, all located in the State of Idaho. Drought conditions in the study area have already impacted the available water supply for surface water users which is expected to decrease. Over the past few decades, more efficient irrigation systems that rely on groundwater wells have continued to increase the depth-to-groundwater resulting in a reduction to instream flows downstream, impacting surface water availability for senior surface rights holders. The study seeks to develop an allocation model for surface and groundwater sources that could be used at the beginning of the irrigation season to allow water users to understand how to best utilize available supplies.
The Dolores Water Conservancy District will complete a Plan of Study to understand the extent and consequences of water supply and demand imbalances, and how climate change will impact the Dolores Project, located in Colorado. After completion, this plan of study can be used to support an application for a full Basin Study which will address shortages in the Dolores Water Conservancy District, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the downstream fishery. This plan of study will include the development of a communication and stakeholder outreach plan as well as an initial application of the San Juan/Dolores River Basin StateMod water allocation model to estimate current and future water supply for the Dolores Basin and to analyze infrastructure and operations.